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The primary differences between fine-dining establishments and casual-themed restaurants concern the food. Greeting customers in an upscale restaurant differs from other restaurants slightly, however. Foremost, the waiter must consider himself a non-entity when interacting with the guest. He should be affable but not overly friendly, respectful but not excessively polite, at ease but professional and formal but unpretentious. Economy of words, proper tone and a confident demeanor will portray the waiter, as well as the entire restaurant staff, as consummate professionals.
Approach the table within 30 seconds of the guest's seating. Promptness sets the tone for the meal service and impresses upon the guest the caliber of service she can expect.
Introduce yourself in a succinct, confident manner. The phrase, “Hello, my name is __, and I will be your waiter this evening,” is preferable to, “Hi, my name’s_ __, and I’ll be taking care of you tonight.”
Offer the guest an aperitif, cocktail or beverage. Do not suggest any specific drinks unless instructed by the service manager. A simple, yet respectful, “May I offer you a cocktail, aperitif or beverage?” will suffice in the finest of establishments. Wine is offered by the sommelier, or wine steward, in fine-dining restaurants.
Respond to the guest with the proper salutation. Always use, “Sir” or “Ma’am,” or, if addressing a group, “Ladies” or “Gentlemen.”
Describe the specials per the chef’s instructions. Do not change the chef’s description of the specials, which are usually introduced to the waitstaff in the pre-shift meeting.
Provide a brief synopsis of the menu upon request only. It is imperative to display product knowledge when describing anything the restaurant offers. Accommodate but don’t volunteer unsolicited information.
Thank the guests and collect the menus in the same order a sommelier serves wine: ladies first, in a clockwise direction, followed by the men, in a clockwise direction. Collect the host’s menu last regardless of gender.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.